Military families not immune to conflict

By Anita Doberman: Columnist

This week my husband and I had an argument. Every married couple fights once in a while, but fighting when someone is away, especially during military deployments, makes it all the more difficult.

For starters, there is no way to call back. Then, there is the pressure of trying to solve the problem in a few minutes. Get the issue out there. Tell the other person what is bothering you, and explain why you are right and they are wrong. Disagree on the last point, and quickly arrive to some resolution. All this has to be done in a 5- to 10-minute conversation. There is no second chance. We never know when the deployed spouse is going to call back.

After an exchange of terse words between my husband and me, I was left with the phone in my hands, flustered and with no way to call back. I tried yelling “I am right!” as loudly as I could, but that didn’t make me feel any better.

Following an hour of restlessness, I was upset with myself. I was disappointed about our fight, and regretted what we said to each other. I couldn’t remember why we fought (OK, I do, his mother), but it didn’t seem to matter all that much now that I was standing in my living room, thousands of miles away from my husband.

What if those were our last words? I could never forgive myself for that.

Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do to remedy the situation.

After some years of military deployments, I know that conflict doesn’t automatically disappear because someone deploys. Left at home, we face the same issues that bothered us before. At the same time, the deployed spouse is dealing with a completely different reality, and has a hard time plunging back into family life during a short phone conversation.

Communication, the one tool that helps us during conflicts, is not available to us when we have such little time to talk to one another.

Sitting on my living room couch, I knew that while I didn’t have time to talk to my husband at length, there was one thing I could always use, even when he is away: humbleness, something that I find difficult to master. It’s hard to let go of expectations and such thoughts as, “I am entitled to this. I deserve his understanding. Why can’t he see my point of view?” But, it’s all the more necessary
when a loved one is away.
Truthfully, humbleness works just as well at home as it does when we are apart.

Deployments present us with difficult tests and obstacles to overcome, but they are important learning experiences.

My husband was able to call back a couple of days after our fight and we happily made up. If I can tame the loud voice in my head that says, “You are right and he is wrong,” I won’t ever fight with him again, deployed or at home.

Except of course when it comes to his mother.